Continuing with the podcast preparations, I am going to try and embed a Soundcloud track on this blog post.
This blog will be the primary place to go to hear my podcast. Therefore I want to be able to embed tracks so that they are playable without having to leave this site. This involves getting HTML code and pasting it into WordPress. I’ve never done this before, so here it goes with an old track I digitised from an LP a while ago:
Cute song. Radical embedding of audio!
One step closer to my podcast.
I can’t sleep. Insomnia is hard to shake because the more you worry about not sleeping, the less likely you are to sleep. When this cycle happens I eventually make a call – It’s time to get up and drink coffee.
So here I am listening to my newfound, favourite TuneIn radio station “American Routes”.
This has me thinking about America and American culture. I am not American in any way – I come from Kenya and South Africa, but in many ways America is always on my mind. I grew up on American cartoons, toys, series and movies. Whether it is the brunt of our jokes, our jealousy or our ambitions, America is a place and an ideal that is all over Africa: “Stupid American tourists” “America is keeping us in debt”. “America is killing our traditions”. “America will save us”. “God bless America”.
At a personal level, this relationship between myself and America is at its most peaceful when American music is playing. For the last 20 years, hiphop has taken Africa by storm. But this is the tip of the iceberg. Blues, jazz, soul, folk, country, bluegrass and gospel traditions of America have enriched my life like little else. All merged together into the melting pot that is Rock n Roll, I would feel starved without American music in my life.
American exceptionalism has given us a lot. But nothing in my mind can compare to all of its great music.
Enjoy American Routes
They say software is eating the world. In the world of music production, software has given anyone with a computer or an iPad access to multiple sounds and techniques. Is this a valid replacement for the old school methods?
Quincy Jones doesn’t think so. In his recent, infamous interview with Vulture he claims that: “Musical principles exist, man,” he said. “Musicians today can’t go all the way with the music because they haven’t done their homework with the left brain. Music is emotion and science. You don’t have to practice emotion because that comes naturally. Technique is different. If you can’t get your finger between three and four and seven and eight on a piano, you can’t play. You can only get so far without technique. People limit themselves musically, man.”
I agree with him on some of this – A classically trained musician will presumably be able to get more out of a production studio (and an iPad) than I can with my untrained background. But, I also think that convenience and emotion trumps technical proficiency for a reason – it sells. And so we have music-by-numbers.
The internet has let the genie out the bottle. By giving publishing and creative power to anyone with a modem, the internet upended the music industry harder than any other i can think of. Music used to have the perfect model. Scarcity in its production process meant that money was made at an astounding rate, and this could be ploughed back into experimentation within the industry. However with the cash dissipating due to online piracy and access to resources – most songs on the radio are now designed to appeal to the masses, and to guarantee a sale. Much like we tend to have sequel movies at the cinema, new ground is rarely broken in the mainstream music world.
My response to Quincy is – so what? Move out of the mainstream then. What Quincy Jones fails to realise in his interview is that mainstream music is only one type of failing music. In fact, the term ‘mainstream’ and ‘pop’ are becoming less and less important. The internet has built up communities around every kind of genre you can imagine – from classical to afro-electronic beats driven by iPads – you can find it if you want to.
The problem is not a lack of proficient musicians or producers in the world. It is just that Quincy is looking for new things in the old places. And those old places are broken now.
One of my favourite songs and it has this line:
“I am yours, you are mine, you are what you are, you make it hard.”
And then after the switchup in timing:
“I’ve got an answer, I’m going to fly away. What have I got to lose?”
And then a trippy guitar solo.
Check it – It’s an all time classic tune covered pretty well – but the guitar work and solo by Derek Trucks makes this cover unique.
I have eclectic musical tastes. My father worked in the music industry for a long time in the 70’s and 80’s so I have a lot of old school rock in my collection. My mum loves classical music, and my grandma was a great pianist so I listen to some choral and baroque classical music – and my personal passion is blues and soul. Old school. I have also recently started listening to hip hop.
A look at the charts – the top ten on Google Play – is fairly meaningless to me now. Nobody is pushing the boundaries of any genre, and art is scarce when the aim is to appeal to the most number of people possible. When this is the case, inevitably the songs start to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Safe bets are placed like the countless sequels in the cinema.
That said, I like Rihanna and DJ Khaled’s song, Grateful. Also, Charlie Puth’s Attention is pretty good.
I like to think about the music industry.
For my streaming needs I oscillate between Google Play and Tidal depending on how pretentious I feel about streaming quality, and how much cash I have. In reality there is not much difference though – all of the major streaming services have an impossibly huge library, the convenience is amazing too. What is most interesting to me is the angst it brings me – Whenever I stream something I think to myself “am i doing this right?” – with LPs and CDs it was far more clearcut how best to listen to music. Now nobody knows.
Which is the best streaming service? It’s not an obvious answer or even an obvious question – Best for the listener? Best for the artist?
I live in South Africa and don’t have access to Spotify or Youtube Red (or whatever Youtube’s subscription options are) it seems to me that Soundcloud was trying to be the Youtube of music, but failed to make money – why? The music industry seems capable of flicking a switch and making an artist centered service like Soundcloud disappear almost overnight.
The whole streaming genre has taken a grip on my brain – it’s such a vast universe and there are so many ways to listen to music now – Which hardware is the best to use?
I follow it with interest and compulsion.
I’m a big Kendrick Lamar fan. Although some of his cultural references are hard to keep up with all the way over here in South Africa, I really appreciate his musicality and his creativity.
When I first heard him, the man seemed to be on a mission. There was more to his songs than a hit record. The depth of his music impressed me.
This interview is fantastic and confirms my suspicions. In particular I love how Kendrick describes his work as a sort of document for people in the future to look back on. It’s a really good interview. Kendrick Lamar’s focus and dedication to his art, with mindfulness of the broader community and heritage is something to aspire to, in my opinion:
I have been focusing on listening to hiphop. It’s the most popular and prevalent form of music nowadays, and I know virtually nothing about it!
Here is my effort at a hiphop playlist. There are some great tunes out there: